UCLA School of Public Health Field Studies Program

Community Health Sciences

Field Placement: Health Services Department for the Ector County Independent School District (ECISD)
Odessa, Texas
Laura Mathew, Director of Health Services for ECISD
Student Name: Leah Warner
Year: 2005

The Health Services Department for the Ector County Independent School District (ECISD) in Odessa, Texas supervises the health and wellness of all ECISD students, faculty, and support staff. This translates to the management of school nursing and issues like infection control, nutrition information, and risky behavior prevention including sex education, substance abuse and violence.

A pressing health concern for the District is the teen pregnancy rate. Under the supervision of Laura Mathew, Director of Health Services for ECISD, I focused mainly on the sex education programs at the secondary level. These programs were federally funded abstinence curricula entitled Dreambuilder/Dreamcatcher. The developers of the curriculum, Preston Chancellor and Steven Brooks, were former health educators in the U.S. Navy. They approach teaching abstinence as a holistic concept that incorporates all risky behaviors, including substance use and violence. The first component of the program, Dreambuilder, is designed for the 7th and 8th grade levels. The modules focus more on risky behaviors: definitions, peer pressure and refusal skills. The second component, Dreamcatcher, is designed for 9th-12th graders. Dreamcatcher is a longer program, and devotes more time to character development, goal setting, and future building.

I worked on the Dreambuilder/Dreamcatcher curriculum for ten weeks by conducting focus group sessions with high school students, teaching modules from the curriculum, composing and pilot testing some of my own modules at all secondary levels, and observing the 5th and 6th grade program on Normal Human Growth and Development (a program separate from the Dreambuilder/Dreamcatcher Program). Additionally, I interviewed all of the ECISD elected School Board members on their opinion of how the District should approach sex education. I assisted Laura in the organization of the Student Health Advisory Council, a council composed of ECISD parents and community members. The job of this Council is to review all health education curricula, and make recommendations to the School Board about ways to improve the health and wellness of the students.

The current direction in sex education within ECISD reflects the current politics is Odessa. Under Laura’s supervision, a highly controversial day of contraception information is taught at the secondary levels. This program is separate from the Dreamcatcher/Dreambuilder program, and therefore receives State funding and involves a separate parental consent form.


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